County of Wetaskiwin council approves water rate hike of 3 per cent

Councilors balk at proposed rate increase of 4 per cent

County of Wetaskiwin ratepayers will see an increase of 3 per cent to their water and wastewater bills in 2020 after the hike was approved by councilors at their regular Public Works council meeting Dec. 10.

Director of Public Works Neil Powell provided councilors with a memo in their agenda package noting previous decisions in 2017 and 2018 were leading to an increase of 4 per cent for water and wastewater rates in the County of Wetaskiwin for 2020.

“At the August 15, 2017 Council for Public Works meeting, Council approved By-law 2017/36 to support, regulate, control, and improve the water and wastewater treatment and distribution systems within the County of Wetaskiwin No. 10,” stated the memo.

“At the October 9, 2018 Council for Public Works meeting, Council approved amending By-law 2018/49, which increased the Water and Sewage Rates by 4% as per the Strategic Plan.

“ Interplan Action for Business Unit 4201- Water and Sewer Rates states: Increase rates by 4% or CPI, whichever is higher for all water systems. Administration has verified with the Finance Department the CPI rate was 1.3% as of August 2019.

“Administration has prepared the draft By-law 2019/56 for Council consideration, which includes the following additions/changes: 4 % increase to both water and sewer rates, effective January 1, 2020.

“Water meters damaged through neglect by property owners/renters will be subject to a fee of $595.00 plus GST for replacement. (Which is the actual cost of replacing a meter).

“Accounts not paid by the due date on the utility bill will be considered in arrears and subject to late penalty charges at a rate of one decimal five percent (1.5%) per month.”

Councilor Kathy Rooyakkers felt four per cent was too much of a hike in one year. “Our economy is not great and that’s a huge increase,” said Rooyakkers.

“I’m bothered by four per cent. I can’t support four per cent.”

Reeve Terry Van de Kraats noted nobody likes hikes, but budgets sometimes demand them. “We have this discussion every year,” said Van de Kraats.

Councilor Josh Bishop noted the County of Wetaskiwin’s water and wastewater rates have traditionally been low. “We know these have been low for a while,” said Bishop. “It’s got to at least be close to a user pay system.”

Rooyakkers made a motion that the water and wastewater rates be increased by the CPI amount, 1.3 per cent, in 2020, but that motion was defeated by a 3 to 4 vote.

A motion to increase the rates by 3 per cent in 2020 was passed initially by a 5 to 2 vote on First Reading, second reading, a motion to entertain Third Reading, and Third Reading.

The rates take effect in the County of Wetaskiwin Jan. 1, 2020.

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